Irish business websites are too slow on mobile devices

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Managing director AGENT Digital, Kevin Meaney, launched Ireland's Website Speed Report at international race circuit Mondello Park with a call for Irish businesses to get their websites on the starting grid for 2019. Photo: AGENT Digital

Leading digital agency AGENT Digital has created Ireland’s most comprehensive website speed report, surveying the page-loading times of more than 1,000 individual Irish websites throughout a wide range of Ireland’s business sectors.

Ireland’s Website Speed Report – which details Ireland’s fastest and slowest websites by business sector – highlights that the average website loading time in the Irish eCommerce (general) sector was the slowest of all sectors surveyed, with websites taking on average 10.35 seconds to load fully on a mobile device.

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SPEEDING AHEAD: Leading digital agency AGENT Digital works with Irish businesses to reduce website page loading times to under 3 seconds.
Photo: AGENT Digital

AGENT Digital managing director Kevin Meaney declared the research a wake-up call not just for the Irish eCommerce (general) sector but for all Irish businesses online.

“The average load time for Irish websites is more than three times the recommended industry standard of less than 3 seconds. Research shows us 53% of people will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load [Google],” Mr Meaney said.

He added: “More than 64% of Irish people are searching and in excess of 16% are purchasing goods and services online through mobile devices every week [Statista]. But our data shows that Irish business websites are not fast enough to adequately serve this traffic.”

The AGENT Digital report reveals that the slow page loading time of Ireland’s eCommerce (general) sector is part of a national trend, with the speed across all sectors averaging 7.76 seconds on mobile devices.

Mr Meaney explained that the focus on website speed has been intensifying over the past decade, and urged businesses to act now to align their page loading times to the industry standard of less than 3 seconds.

He stated: “Google has for years aimed to load its pages in under a half-second, and regards 2 seconds as the e-commerce threshold. As long ago as 2012, Google was describing loading times of 5 seconds as an eternity in a world where fractions of seconds count [Google]. And other research has concluded a delay of just one second can result in 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and a 7% loss of conversions [Aberdeen Group].”

To bring the issue up to date and into focus for Ireland in 2018, AGENT Digital’s research team created Ireland’s Website Speed Report using Google’s web performance and speed test tools to periodically test the speed of 1,081 individual Irish websites across 29 business sectors over a 12-month period.

UP TO SPEED: Find how to reduce your website page loading time, with ‘Ireland’s Website Speed Report’ by leading digital agency, AGENT Digital.
Image Credit: AGENT Digital

The research finds that websites in the Irish Professional Services (Consultancy) sector have the fastest average page-loading time on mobile devices (4.95 seconds), followed by websites in the Energy sector (6.08 seconds), and Financial Services (Insurance), where sites have an average page loading time of 6.45 seconds.

As noted, the research finds Retail eCommerce (General) sites with the slowest average loading time on mobile devices of all sectors, at 10.35 seconds, behind the 9.22 seconds for sites in the Non-Profit sector, and AgriBusiness websites, which have an average loading time on mobile devices of 9.19 seconds.

Just under half (14) of the 29 sectors surveyed have average loading times faster than the national average of 7.76 seconds. Eight of the sectors are in the immediate hinterland of the national average, including Automotive (7.02); Retail-Fashion (7.25); Technology-Sector Total (7.53); Resources (7.58); Food (7.67); Communications (7.73); Media & Marketing (7.85); and Construction 7.88).

All sectors have average mobile loading times in excess of the recommended 2-3 seconds threshold.

In 2018, swift mobile loading times have become critical for two reasons. The first relates to user experience (UX) as it is right now, and how UX and sales are affected by the loading delays. There is a correlation between delays and bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave a website after viewing only one page).

Bounce rate increases as page-load times increase, so longer waits are more likely to result in mobile users leaving for other websites [Akamai]. In addition, it’s tougher to get mobile users to convert, because their expectations for speed and reliability are higher. While it’s impressive that more than half of overall web traffic is coming from mobile [Google], this is offset by the reality that more than 53% of mobile visitors to a site will abandon a page that takes longer than three seconds to load [Google].

“Based on the industry standard of a 3-second load time, even the quickest sector in Ireland is losing over half of their mobile site visitors. With 3.59-million smartphone users in Ireland this year, and a forecast increase to 4.06-million by 2022 [Statista], this highlights the scale of the issue,” Mr Meaney stated.

He added that the recent rollout of Google’s ‘Speed Update’ had made the issue even more urgent for Irish business website owners. “With the Google ‘Speed Update’ that was rolled out in July this year, page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searches. Websites that are slow to load will rank lower in Google search results. It is now essentials for Irish businesses to address the problem to ensure their websites are loading as quickly as possible.” [Google]

Ireland’s Website Speed Report found no sector with average loading times of less than the recommended 2-3 seconds. This research is a wake-up call to businesses to face the challenges presented by slow loading times, and their impact on page views and customer satisfaction.

With Retail – eCommerce (General) identified as the sector with the slowest average page loading speed, a glance at the market gives an indication of the potential scale of losses.

In 2018, revenue in the Irish eCommerce market is worth around €3,502m and is expected to grow to €4873m by 2022 [Statista]. However, Google and other sources warn that a delay of just 1-second could result in a 7% loss in conversions.

Seen in that light, the 7-second delay averaged by Irish websites in the Retail – eCommerce (General) sector becomes a stark signifier of potential losses.

Ireland’s Website Speed Report is part of the AGENT Digital goal of helping 100,000 businesses to grow online by 2030. The report was created to make Irish brands more aware of the importance of website speed, and to help improve their online businesses.

Mr Meaney stated: “It was important for us to create this speed report to highlight the issue to Irish Businesses. Many Irish brands are simply not aware that their websites are too slow. Once the issue is highlighted it can be quickly addressed through effective website speed optimisation techniques.”

As a leading digital agency AGENT Digital specialises in website speed optimisation for leading brands both nationally and internationally. To help Irish businesses, AGENT Digital has 10 pragmatic tips that companies can take to improve their website speed immediately.

10 Tips to Improve Your Website Speed

  1. Enable Compression

Use the file compression software application Gzip to reduce the size of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.

  1. Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

OptimiSe your coding by removing spaces, commas and other superfluous characters and marks. This can dramatically increase page loading times.

  1. Reduce Redirects

Keep redirects to a minimum. Every time a page redirects to another page, your visitors will have extra time waiting for the completion of the HTTP request-response cycle.

  1. Check your Plugins

Too many plugins will slow down a website. The browser needs time to process the plugins and assimilate them with your site. Go through all the plugins on your website, and ask if you really need each one.

  1. Resolve 404 Errors

404 Errors -messages indicating that the requested page is not available – can really frustrate visitors. They also slow down your site because they take up space that could exist for actual content. Remove any pages with 404 Errors, or create a 301 Redirect, a permanent redirect to another page on your site.

  1. Remove Render-Blocking JavaScript

While rendering web pages, browsers will build a DOM Tree by parsing HTML code. However, if a Script is encountered during this process, the browser must stop and execute it before continuing.

  1. Leverage Browser Caching

When visitors click on your pages for the first time, their browsers will cache images, stylesheets, JavaScript files and more. This means that when they return, the browser will not have to reload the entire page, so page loading times will be minimised. You can use tools such as Yslow to check and set expiration dates for caching of information.

  1. Improve server response time

The response time of your server is affected not only by traffic, but also by the resources your web pages are using, server software, and hosting solutions. You should always remain vigilant for performance bottlenecks, and check and fix whatever is causing them, such as slow database queries, routing, or memory issues.

  1. Use a Content Distribution Network

Content Distribution Networks (CDNs), also called Content Delivery Networks, are networks of servers which evenly distribute the task of content delivery.

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